David Sanchez: Ninety-Mile Bridge
"These people don't take things for granted the way we do in the United States. In America we don't listen so well, we're more interested in what we have to say all the time. So, the level of appreciation and respect of the audience in Havana was amazing. Jazz is not the main thing there; it's just another style of music. We thought, man, we're going to die here but we're going to give to these people what they deserve. That was the vibration of that concert. We fed from the people's energy. It was a two-way street and the concert flowed in spite of the conditions. It was a great night, a great experience."
As Sánchez points out, jazz is even more of a minority music in Cuba than it is in the United States, and he could sympathize with the Cuban musicians about the difficulty of pursuing jazz as a profession. "I could relate to what they were saying. Are you kidding me? Are you going to make a living playing jazz in Puerto Rico? I don't even know what to tell the students in the conservatory. Just live what you have at the moment. Live it and absorb it and then you'll get there. But I'm not going to lie. You cannot make a living playing only jazz in Puerto Rico, or in Cuba or in Colombia or in Venezuela, the list goes on and on. I can only talk about what I know, but in Puerto Rico you cannot make a living playing one festival a year. You can't pay the bills. In Puerto Rico there's one club where they have a piano and play jazz all week, all year long. The musicians have to play other stuff, with a singer. It's the same in Cuba."
Sánchez, Harris and Scott have been touring the United States promoting the album but so far there have been no dates further afield. "It was too late for this summer," says Sánchez. "The recording came out June 21 and by the time the word got out it was late and the festival programs were full." Sánchez was in Europe in May where he had discovered a degree of confusion regarding the project. "Some people thought that Ninety Miles was a tribute to [trumpeter] Miles Davis" he says laughing. "That's amazing! There was enough info out there, how can you think it's a tribute to Miles Davis? Now that the recording is out and the word is out there's more information about what the recording is about so maybe at the end of this year or next year we can have a really solid European tour."
The lineup for the live dates so far, has not included any of the Cuban musicians from the recording session and the piano chair has seen a few changes along the way as Sánchez explains. "It's consistently been Luques Curtis on bass; he's an incredible young bassist; Henry Cole has been on the drums and on percussion Maurizio Herrera, a great Cuban percussionist. The piano chair has been changing constantlyLuis Perdomo did a few gigs, Luques' brother Sacaya Curtis did a few gigs then Fabian Almasan, a great Cuban pianist whose playing with [trumpeter] Terence Blanchard these days, did the other performances."
Although Sánchez is extremely positive about the live performances he expresses some sadness that Duharte, López-Nussa (left) and their quartets could not play the gigs in the United Sates. "Yeah, it's disappointing. Unfortunately, politics and ideologies are in the way of true human relations. It's so primitive, tribal and uncivilized. They won't see what's in front of them. That's why art is so important. With art you need to see what you have in front of you. You have to look directly at it and you have to relate to it. This is why art should play a much bigger role in society, to help people free themselves from the stupidity of ideals that don't go anywhere."
It's something of a shame that the Grammies have ditched the Latin Grammy section as Ninety Miles would have been an extremely strong contender. Sánchez, a Grammy winner himself for Coral (Sony, 2004) gives some food for thought on the relegation of the Latin component of the Grammy awards. "It's the best evidence that the Academy is all about financial decisions and not about art. They are popularity awards."
"But everything evolves and everything changes," he adds philosophically. "The concept we have about what jazz is maybe needs to be re-evaluated, because jazz takes from a lot of different music. Your idea of what jazz was forty years ago can't be today because society has changed. What it was is not what it is today. Jazz has never been about the old. [pianist/bandleader] Duke Ellington brought a new perspective to what went before, so did [pianist/bandleader] Count Basie, [saxophonist] Charlie Parker and [trumpeter] Dizzy Gillespie, [pianist] Thelonious Monk. Later on [saxophonist] Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and [saxophonist] John Coltrane brought other perspectives. Jazz has always been of its time."